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Mourning Before Death

I keep telling myself she’s going to be ok, it’s just a little cold – but in the back of my mind I know it’s something else. I know it’s lurking in the corners and it’s putting a damper on my spirit. My smile doesn’t reach as far, and silence and deep thought has transcended me – trying to prepare for what I know will come. It’s just a matter of when.

Last night when I went to look at my grandmothers face, for the first time in a long time I saw pain and suffering, harsh rash breathing in between the familiar sounds of her groaning.

My first experience with grief and death was when my uncle passed away. I was in sixth grade maybe seventh – attending Ivy Hill Middle school in Newark – a few blocks away from home. I was in an after school program called sister hood and every time we met we had to recite this poem …’I am Me”…. We were scheduled to go on a field trip one day in the spring and I remember being sad and not wanting to go. My cousin was also in the program and tried to convince me that I’d feel better going. Instead I stayed home and mourned. During my uncles funeral, his daughter – my older cousin – did not cry. My uncle passed of lung cancer I believe. He wasn’t a smoker, everyone thought she was weird. But now I understand. She grieved her dad, my uncle before he passed. And when he finally did she knew his pain and suffering finally ended.

And while everyone has been thankful that Betty White and a few other celebrities making it to 2017, January is reminding me just how alive I am through my grandmother. I talked about her here before. And I wish I could share her with you what she was like in person rather than the fond memories I have of her. The things she did when I was younger that annoyed me due to lack of understanding are the things I now miss. I hope you don’t mind as I reminisce of the things she did and said:

My grandmother loves her children. She never ceased to talk about them, and she would tell us the order of each child as she had them. She’d tell us who gave her issues, and who was easy to deal with. She had “Onze petit” eleven kids. I’d learn later in life that she did have one child that passed away and another that she adopted as her own. Today he’s still in Haiti.

Grandma would mock me when I’d beg my brother to “leave me alone!!!!!” But in creole it would translate that the light is long. I think she had her fair share of laughter because she didn’t tell me the meaning of why she would be snickering until years later. My grandma came to the states when I was fairly young. I don’t even remember not being able to speak creole.

She was truly amazing in her hay day. She learned her alphabets and how to write her name. She had this little book where she would keep all her numbers to call her friends. She was a beast at math and taught us how to tie plastic bags into a bow for better storage. She loved working. She loved having money. And when we had a garden in the back yard she would be the first one out there picking out the weeds, cutting the lalo known as leaves of jute here in America. She would be the first one to start cleaning it so we could eat later in the year.

She wasn’t afraid to beat the mess out of you if you did something wrong – and she always came to my sisters rescue when she was about to get an ass whooping! She had a lullaby for my sister – my sister got spoiled the most. Grandma was definitely her second mother. I remember how we’d walk down to my aunts house in Irvington and she hated walking past dogs – I learned that she was bit in the leg when she was in Haiti. And man oh man the stories she told …. she made me fearful of visiting Haiti.

My grandma was an early riser she taught me how to make the best eggs you’d ever have for breakfast. And she could recite bible verses an hour long.  She would pray for each and every person before bed and upon rising. She was devote Christian. When I was younger we shared rooms and she would do her prayers and I’d toss and turn and mumble under my breath because I wanted to sleep – sorry Grandma, sorry God – I didn’t know any better back then.

Before my aunts and uncles traveled over to the states, we’d sing on cassette tapes and say hi to people we thought we’d never meet. It’s great to be able to say otherwise now. It would be great to be able to hear her voice again. I haven’t heard her voice in nearly five to six years – possibly longer than that.

I decided to publish this because I was only able to sleep after reading a few articles from Jonas Ellison. A few quotes from his writing stood out to me:

“…deep suffering is the only thing besides Love that opens us up to transformation. Without our lives being torn apart, they’re impossible to rebuild. But from the rubble of loss, one can reconstruct a temple in honor of the one who’s fallen at our feet…..”

“…the divine dichotomy of death. It’s beautiful in that it hurts. I mean, would it really be appropriate to make it ‘better’? If you could snap your fingers and immediately feel awesome in the face of a loved one’s passing, would you?…”

On the contrary I ought to still find joy in the midst of all of this. I see how my mother continues to care for her. How she prevents the bed sores, how she has created a system for feeding, changing diapers, medical visits – total care…..

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